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AUGUST IS INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW MONTH

Uphold humanitarian laws even during armed conflict, pandemic – CHR

/ 05:56 PM August 12, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Wednesday reminded both state and non-state parties on the importance of upholding humanitarian laws even during armed conflict and other crises like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In a message in commemoration of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) month and IHL Day, CHR acknowledged the government’s “strides” to promote human rights in the country.

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Although CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia admitted that there are still a lot of issues to confront, especially regarding reports of civilians being caught in skirmishes and children being used as fighters — both prohibited under local and international humanitarian laws.

“[CHR] recognizes the commitment of the government to uphold the IHL. Specifically, the Department of National Defense (DND), through the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), endeavor to continually conduct capacity development mechanisms and information and education programs on human rights and IHL at all levels of command,” De Guia said.

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“Despite the strides, there are still challenges in the compliance of IHL. CHR would like to emphasize the prohibition to recruit and use children in armed conflict and hostilities. We reiterate our stern reminder to all armed groups that the use of child soldiers constitutes a war crime,” she added.

CHR claimed that a greater responsibility to enforce regulations — like the IHL itself, the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity; The Emblem Law; and the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act — rests on the government’s shoulders.

While there are existing challenges, CHR noted that the commemoration of the IHL is a good way to focus on humanitarian values, especially nowadays that people perceive the government’s response to the recent health crisis to be leaning towards law enforcement and not on a health-based approach.

“The IHL month is an opportunity for us to focus on humanitarian values amid armed conflict and also during any crisis, such as the current pandemic. Individuals and families affected by conflict suffer numerous vulnerabilities,” De Guia said.

“To preserve the health and dignity of the communities, CHR’s call includes prioritizing humanitarian efforts and allowing peace to flourish in communities so we can all have a fair chance to heal and live a life of dignity in the face of a health crisis,” she stressed.

Communist rebel group New People’s Army (NPA) has been accused of using children as fighters in its over five decades insurgency — an issue that CHR has previously investigated. NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines have denied these accusations.

READ: CHR probes NPA use of child warrior

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READ: NPA not recruiting minors as fighters ‘a blatant lie’ Año

In 2014, the military alleged that 13 of 72 NPA rebels who surrendered in Cagayan de Oro were either children or minors, a violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

However, accusations that civilians were also harmed in the military’s anti-insurgency campaign likewise hounded state forces, although they insist that they try their best not to involve civilians into these incidents, adding that injured non-combatants have been treated well.

READ: Child warriors among NPA surrenderees

READ: Army: Daughter, kin of slain alleged NPA leader not in critical condition, were treated for slight injuries

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